The idea behind the parent dances is simple. You dance with your dad, your new spouse dances with their mom or dad, and everyone feels special about it. Unfortunately, family dynamics can get in the way and take the situation from simple to difficult.
If you and your fiancee each have a glowing, loving family, then congratulations. That’s absolutely wonderful and you’ve earned a pass on this article. Skip it and move on to the next article.
If you have complications with your parents and you aren’t the perfect Norman Rockwell family, that’s OK. This should help.
21st century families are complex and don’t always come with a mother, father, and 1.5 children (or whatever the average is now). Sometimes there’s a mother but no father, a father but no mother, or neither. Heck, sometimes there are two of each after parents get divorced and remarried. This complexity can cause stress and drama before wedding day and can even overflow onto the day of.
When you’re planning, you need to figure out what to do about your parent dances. This is a non-issue for the kids of tradition families but it can be a headache for everybody else. What do you do with no dad or two dads? What do you do if you’re not close with your parents? So many questions.
Allow this guide to help. Identify which situation you have and see your options.
Mom(s) Only: If your father is deceased or otherwise out of the picture, or you have two moms, then your mom(s) should be celebrated. It’s perfectly acceptable for a bride to dance with her mother in the place of an absent father.
Dad(s) Only: This is a little trickier than having only mom(s). It’ll be easy for brides because you’ll traditionally dance with dad anyway. The quandary is when it comes to grooms. A lot of guys, especially straight guys, aren’t going to want to slow dance with their father. That’s OK. Consider replacing them with another very close female family member: grandmother, sister, aunt, etc.
Stepparents: In this instance you’re not lacking parents, you have too many of them! You could have four parents, two biological and two step, if your parents are divorced and remarried. In this case, you and your new spouse need to ask yourself how close you are to your stepparents. If your stepfather just came into your life last year and you’re not close, then just dance with dad. If your stepfather has been a critical part of your life since you were young, then he should probably be honored with a dance. In this case, consider doing two dances, one for each dad, or consider dancing to one song and splitting the time between the two.
No Parents: Unfortunately, your parents can’t make it to wedding day. Maybe they’re deceased, maybe they’re estranged and not invited. Regardless, your parents aren’t physically present. Consider replacing your parents and/or your new spouse’s parents with the people who raised you, like maybe your grandparents.
Estranged (But Attending) Parents: Your parents aren’t part of your life but they’ll still be in attendance out of obligation or some other reason. Choose the person whom you’re closest to for your dance. Maybe it’s them but there’s a good chance it’s somebody else. That’s OK. Don’t feel guilty about it.
Adopted Parents: The answer to this one a combination of some of the answers above. If you’ve grown up and you’re now on good terms with them, consider dancing with both your adopted parent and your birth parent (like the stepparent situation). If you know your birth parents and they’re invited but you’re not close, just dance with the adopted parent who raised you (like the estranged parent situation).
There’s one other alternative to all of this. Don’t deal with the stress and guilt. Skip the parent dances altogether. There’s no wedding bylaw that declares you must dance with parents. You could even skip the one side that has problems while doing the other side’s parent dance.
No matter which situation that you find yourself in, don’t forget that this isn’t the most important part of your wedding day. That would be eating cake.